By Gboyega Akinsanmi

The Lagos State Government yesterday unveiled ‘Liberation Statue in memory of the late Afrobeat pioneer and human rights activist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti to mark his posthumous 79th birthday and 20th anniversary of his passage.

Perhaps to avoid a barrage of criticism the statue might generate, the state government clarified that the “Liberation” statue “is not an image of Fela, but a symbol of Fela’s philosophy.”

The statue was formally unveiled by the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, yesterday alongside Fela’s children namely; Oluwayeni, Oluseun and Kunle Anikulapo-Kuti among other family members.

Also at the unveiling of the Liberation statue are human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana; Senator Solomon Olamilekan-Adeola; APC South West Women Leader, Mrs. Kemi Nelson, former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Femi Pedro and a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. James Faleke, among others.

After he unveiled the statue amid accolades, the governor paid a visit to the Kalakuta Museum at Gbemisola Street, Ikeja where Olufela Olufemi Anikulapo-Kuti, the eldest son of the late Afrobeat pioneer presented him souvenirs.

The Liberation Statue, which symbolically depicts the image of the late Afrobeat legend without head, was created by Abolore Sobayo, an artist with keen political consciousness and erected at the Allen roundabout, Ikeja standing in an opposite direction to the statue of late Premier of old Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

In an emotion-laden speech, Ambode paid tribute to the late legend, specifically pointing the attention of the guests to the manner Fela made the world sit up and take notice of the energy of African art and music.

Even though he died two decades ago, Ambode said it had become imperative “to remember and honour Fela who challenged us as individuals and as a people to free our minds of all inhibitions and actualise our true potential. Fela, 20 years after his death, is still alive as a movement of social consciousness and justice against oppression in our society.”

He noted that Fela was an enigmatic artiste, who used the platform of his art “to agitate for social and human rights by challenging the government and people to explore development through social and economic activities that are rooted in African values.”

He therefore, explained that the government and people of Lagos State chose to celebrate the late legend with the unveiling of the Liberation Statue on October 15 to mark his 79th birthday.

He noted that it “has been 20 years since he passed on, but the memories he left us will remain evergreen. This monument should be the first of many to celebrate the icon who gave us Afro beat.

“We celebrate a man who voluntarily turned his back on a life of comfort and privilege, and took up his saxophone as a weapon to fight for the liberation of our people from neo-colonialism and bad governance.

“The statue is not an image of Fela but a symbol of Fela’s philosophy. This artwork was created as a form of respect and remembrance to this legend; what he stood for and fought for with his music; his mythology; struggle for freedom; fight for human dignity; social consciousness; courage and Pan-Africanism,” the governor explained.

He thus pledged his commitment “to fully harness the potentials of entertainment, creative arts and tourism to transform the economy of Lagos State and generate wealth and job opportunities for our people.”

He said the state government “identifies with the spirit of limitless opportunities offered by the creative sector and will support entertainment entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams.”

He added that the state government would create a vibrant arts and culture sector that would empower our young and talented population to find their own voices and impact society positively.

He said: “Fela would have been 80 years next year and for his contribution to music, art and entertainment in Lagos, Nigeria and Africa, we believe should be immortalised. Fela deserves to be celebrated with many more monuments and different artistic expressions.

“Today, he is still alive in his music and in the music of Femi, Seun and other artistes who have followed his style of music. This monument we have unveiled today should be the first of many to celebrate the icon who gave us afro beat,” the governor explained.